Across the Blue Ridge #125 - Prince Edward Island Fiddling, Old-Time & Bluegrass Music

Across the Blue Ridge #125 - Prince Edward Island Fiddling, Old-Time & Bluegrass Music

4:00pm May 11, 2018
Ken Perlman has extensively documented the Prince Edward Island fiddling traditions, which came near to extinction in the 1950s and 1960s before local residents launched a revival effort. On this ATBR episode, Perlman notes the cultural and musical similarities and differences between Canadian maritime communities and those of European and British Isles settlers in the Blue Ridge region. He has published a detailed book on the PEI traditions. A banjo and guitar player, he’s also adapted some of the PEI fiddle repertoire to banjo on Frails & Frolics, his new album.
R.Geyer, courtesy Ken Perlman

Ken Perlman has documented, and as a result helped shepherd the survival – and revival – of a fiddling tradition on Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Maritimes.  That’s quite an accomplishment for a New York City-born banjo and guitar picker who doesn’t even play the fiddle.   But Perlman is no ordinary musician.  He’s a folklorist, a teacher who runs banjo camps around the U.S., and a doggedly devoted advocate for the banjo and traditional music in general.  He’s just released an album, Frails & Frolics, including settings of Prince Edward Island (PEI) fiddle tunes for banjo.  His exhaustive study of PEI fiddle music and cultural traditions unfolds in his acclaimed book, Couldn’t Have A Wedding Without The Fiddler.  And he’s played a big role in providing content for the website bowingdownhome.ca, focused on PEI fiddling, in conjunction with the Canadian Museum of History and the University of Prince Edward Island.

On this Across the Blue Ridge episode, Perlman explains how the PEI fiddling and dancing traditions nearly died out unnoticed due to modernization in many forms including TV, radio, paved roads and automobiles that competed for people’s time and interest. And then, some local folks started searching for new ways to help keep fiddling and traditional dance relevant.

Today there’s a vibrant music scene on the island – though Perlman notes in our interview that despite everyone’s efforts, some of the old styles of fiddling have nevertheless been largely forgotten. 

This is a fascinating story of traditions, evolution, and human interaction, supported by lots of music.
Also on this week’s show, some wonderful old-time and bluegrass songs and tunes from performers including Laurie Lewis, Tyler Hughes, Sam Gleaves, and ATBR host Paul Brown.

Playlist

  1. Sally Ann
    Dreadful Snakes
    Snakes Alive!
    Rounder
     
  2. Remember Me
    Bobby Hicks & Mark Kuykendall
    Forever & A Day
    Rebel
     
  3. My Stone Mountain Home
    Sam Gleaves & Tyler Hughes
    Sam Gleaves & Tyler Hughes
    Community Music
     
  4. Beyond The River Bend
    Laurie Lewis & Her Bluegrass Pals
    Laurie Lewis & Her Bluegrass Pals
    Rounder
     
  5. Wink The Other Eye
    Foghorn String Band
    Weiser Sunrise
    Netwerk
     
  6. Rochester Schottische
    Paul Brown & Company
    Red Dog
    Ryland Records
     
  7. Break 1 - Fiddlin' Phil
    Peter Chaisson (Young)
    The Prince Edward Island Style of Fiddling
    Rounder
     
  8. Bonniest Lass In A' The World/Emil Gaudet's Reel/Cheticamp Reel
    Ken Perlman
    Frails & Frolics
    Redbud
     
  9. Londonderry Hornpipe & Southern Melody
    Peter Chaisson (Young)
    Island Archives, University of Prince Edward Island
    Island Archives, University of Prince Edward Island
     
  10. Interview 1 - Ken Perlman
    Ken Perlman
    ATBR recording
     
  11. Doucette's Reel
    Joseph Doucette
    Island Archives, University of Prince Edward Island
    Island Archives, University of Prince Edward Island
     
  12. Interview 2 - Ken Perlman
    Ken Perlman
    ATBR recording
     
  13. North Side Of The Grampians/Jack Webster's Reel/Souris Breakwater
    Ken Perlman
    Frails & Frolics
    Redbud
     
  14. Break 2 - Where The North River Flows
    Ken Perlman
    Frails & Frolics
    Redbud
     
  15. Souris Breakwater
    Jackie & Carl Webster
    The Prince Edward Island Style of Fiddling
    Rounder
     
  16. Money Musk
    Joe Greene
    Joe Greene's Fiddle Album
    County
     
  17. Interview 3 - Ken Perlman
    Ken Perlman
    ATBR recording
     
  18. Island Boy
    Dennis Pitre
    The Prince Edward Island Style of Fiddling
    Rounder
     
  19. Whiskey Before Breakfast
    Wayne Henderson & Clay Lunsford
    Thumb To Thumb
    Freedom Recording